Friday, July 24, 2015


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You Don’t Matter. House Votes for Monsanto’s Right to Deceive Consumers
by Ronnie Cummins

'We know this: We can’t let this bill get through the U.S. Senate.' (Image:
On Thursday, 275 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.

They voted against the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs. They voted against the producers of non-GMO foods.

They voted against you.

Now that the DARK Act has been approved by the House, we’ll have to stop it in the Senate. We have to move fast—because Monsanto is desperate to pass a bill that preempts mandatory GMO labeling laws at the state and federal levels, before Vermont’s GMO labeling law takes effect next year.

H.R. 1599 was sold to Congress via multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns built on lies and deception. The bill’s sole purpose is to support an industry—Monsanto’s poison-peddling industry—that was founded on lies and deception from the get-go.

Were the Congress members who voted against you fooled by Monsanto’s slick, deceitful packaging of this so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”? Or did they simply vote with their wallets, stuffed full of biotech and junk food industry cash?

We don’t know. But we know this: We can’t let this bill get through the U.S. Senate.
Less than 24 hours before the House vote, the industry-funded front group behind H.R. 1599 was still pushing out the lies. The “Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food,” feigning concern for consumers, emailed members urging them to support the DARK Act because if we require mandatory labeling, it will increase the cost of your food by $500/year. That lie has been debunked over and over, by legitimate independent studies. It’s a lie based on a study funded by, and which remains the intellectual property of, the Council for Biotech Information—of which Monsanto is a member.

Less than 24 hours before the House vote, a staffer in the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, told a caller that the DARK Act gives consumers what they want: the means to know whether or not their food contains GMOs. “Consumers can choose to presume that all foods have GMO contents unless they are labeled or otherwise presented as non-GMO.  Meaning that it is knowable and it is known by the public which products have GMO and which don't,” claimed a Pompeo minion.

More lies. The DARK Act creates a voluntary, government-run non-GMO certification program. Unless every producer of non-GMO products pays to have those products certified non-GMO, consumers will still have no way of knowing which products contain GMOs, and which don’t. And why should the burden of labeling fall on the producers of non-GMO foods, when the risk factor is associated with those foods that do contain GMOs?

H.R. 1599 would repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s Act 120, and would preempt any future state or federal laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or foods containing GMOs. That’s unconstitutional, according to the Campaign for Liberty, which said this in a statement yesterday: 

Whatever your views on GMOs, there is no Constitutional justification for the federal government to preempt state laws in this area. There certainly is no justification for Congress to preempt private sector efforts to meet consumer demands for non-GMO foods, while allowing those who support the use of GMOs to do so.

Yet 275  members of the U.S. House today voted against the U.S. Constitution. And if we don’t stop them, a majority of U.S. Senators could do the same.

If we are going to stop the federal government from taking away our right to demand truth and transparency in labeling, we will have to double or triple our size and our impact. And we have to do it now.

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica.


Oregon's Farm to School programs lead the nation with new fundingOregon's Farm to School programs lead the nation with new funding

This is a news release from Upstream Public Health and Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network:

All Oregon school districts can receive extra funds to buy and serve local foods, starting this fall, thanks to the Oregon legislature. Oregon has been a national leader in Farm to School and School Garden programs, and this will be another first: offering funds to all districts that participate in the federal school lunch program, not just the “winners” of competitive grants.
The legislature provided a total of $4,519,189 for this popular program for 2015-17, including a $3.3 million increase in the end-of-session spending bill, SB 5507. Several key program details were also revised through SB 501. Both bills passed the Senate and House on Monday (7/6/15), in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session.

New funding will also be available for food-based, agriculture-based and garden-based education programs, to help kids get excited about fresh and healthy foods.

“Kids will do many things with beets if you serve them in a cafeteria,” says Kasandra Griffin of Upstream Public Health. “They make great projectiles, they make great face paint. But if a kid grows a beet in a school garden, they will actually eat beets when they are served in the cafeteria or at home, because it reminds them of the time they grew a beet themselves, and they liked it.”

Supporters tout a wide range of benefits of the Farm to School and School Garden program, from reducing hunger, to improving nutrition and reducing the childhood diabetes epidemic, to supporting Oregon’s economy.

“Farm to School programs help farmers, processors and rural Oregon,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane. “I’m proud to support this innovative program that supports our communities while also providing students with healthy and fresh Oregon-grown food.”
Representative McLane was a co-sponsor of HB 2721, the stand-alone version of the Farm to School Bill, before it was folded into SB 5507 and 501.

The focus on local can transform the buying habits of schools. According to Megan Kemple of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, “Oregon schools spend over $45 million in federal dollars on school lunch ingredients, every year. By investing in Farm to School, we can encourage school districts to change their buying behavior and keep more of that federal money circulating in Oregon. And that makes a big difference in the bottom lines of farmers here in Lane County, and around the state.”

Jane Gullet, the Nutrition Director of Yamhill-Carlton School District, is proof of that type of behavior change. Her district received one of the grants for 2013-15. “The grant changed the way I think about buying food,” she said.

“I never thought about this before, but now the first thing I ask any vendor is whether their products are local, or if they have a local alternative. I’m aiming to serve 75% local products.”

“Local” is defined as anything produced or processed in the state of Oregon. Over half of the food dollars from the 2013-15 grants were spent on produce, especially apples, pears, and berries, but other local foods also qualify, including meat, seafood, grains, dairy, and even processed foods. Some of Gullet’s favorite local products include vegetarian chili from Truitt Family Foods, fresh lean ground beef from Carlton Farms, low-fat vanilla Tillamook yogurt, and whole-wheat buns and breadsticks from Teeny Bakery.

Peter Truitt, of Truitt Family Foods, produces the chili that Gullet buys. “We love selling our Salem-made foods to Oregon schools. It feels good knowing we are providing the nutrition kids need to learn. As Oregon's Farm to School activities have increased, so has the demand for healthy, locally processed food. This creates an attractive market for farmers and food processors. At Truitt Family Foods, we are developing new hummus and bean dips for the school market, and will be able to hire more workers as this business grows.”

The amount of funding available per school district will be based on the number of students eating school lunches (per USDA’s National School Lunch Program) there the previous year. All schools are eligible – public, private, charter. Other program changes in HB 2721 include allowing the schools to use the “food” funds for any school meals (not just lunch), separating the funding for educational activities from the funding for food purchasing, and making non- profit partners and commodity commissions eligible to apply for the educational portion.
This year’s program expansion is a particularly sweet victory for Representative Brian Clem, D-Salem, who has been championing Farm to School and School Garden bills every session since 2007. “Our goal ever since 2007 has been to provide funding for every school in the state to buy local products,” says Clem. “It took us a few years, but we made it. With this step, we continue to lead the nation in showing how Farm to School and School Garden programs should be done, and how much they can benefit kids, farmers, and everyone in between.”

Oregon Department of Education manages the grant program, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. They will post updated information soon for schools and other partners: